Consider using Essential Commodities Act to stabilise pulse prices: Govt to states
The Union government on Monday assessed the availability and supply of pulses, whose prices have surged nearly 10% in a fortnight, asking states to consider invoking some provisions of the Essential Commodities (EC) Act to force traders to reveal stocks and supplies.
In a virtual meeting with key officials of states, Union food secretary Leena Nandan and agriculture secretary Sanjay Agarwal reviewed output and prices of lentils. Nandan asked states to consider invoking Sections 3(2)(h) and 3(2)(i) of the Essential Commodities Act (EC Act), which will require stockholders, millers, traders and importers to declare stocks.
“States/UTs were requested to monitor prices of all 22 essential commodities, especially pulses, oilseeds, vegetables and milk, and to look for early signs of any unusual price rise so that timely interventions can be made to ensure that these food items are provided at affordable prices to consumers,” an official statement said.
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The government has allowed free import of three types of lentils -- tur, urad and moong -- after a gap of three years to boost availability. The relaxed norms for imports will continue till October 31.
Data from Agmarknet, a state-run commodities platform, on Monday showed tur prices in retail markets were ruling at ₹7,000 per quintal, about ₹1,000 more than the minimum support price of ₹6,000 per quintal.
The Union government, under the EC Act, can authorise state governments to issue control orders to regulate the supply of essential goods.
Under the amended EC Act 2020, which removed a host of commodities from regulatory controls, the government can still regulate essential items if a set of thresholds of inflation are crossed. These are: 100% increase in retail price for perishables and, 50% increase in non-perishable items over preceding 12 months or average of the last five years, whichever is lower.
“The open general license under the free import policy will enable traders to quickly import the required quantity of tur, moong and urad to fulfil the shortage of the pulses. We are expecting (importing) a minimum (of) 250,000 tonne of tur, 150,000 tonne of urad and around 50,000-75,000 tons of moong beans from Myanmar, Africa, and the neighbouring countries,” said Jitu Bheda, the chairman of Indian Pulses and Grain Association.
To quicken imports, the Centre has ordered prompt regulatory approvals such as phyto-sanitary and customs clearances to imports.